Arco Iris Spanish Immersion School is a 1st through 8th grade public charter school in Beaverton, Oregon, featuring Spanish immersion and Singapore Math, a highly acclaimed mathematics program. Our mission is to foster an increased academic ability that includes students becoming bilingual, bi-literate and multi-cultural so that they are fully prepared for college, career, and citizenship. The school was founded by several parents and educators in 2010 who were passionate about their children receiving a rigorous academic education that included a second language.
The first few years were tough. Danielle Siver was able to secure a grant from the US Department of Education for startup costs that helped show the Beaverton School District that we could be a viable entity. After we went through charter approval, we used the funds to buy desks, chairs, book cabinets, white boards and everything else you need. Who knew that each document camera (fancy overhead projectors) were more than $1k each? We shopped at City Liquidators in Portland, at commercial auction events, and even on Craigslist where Deonne Knill found some good but used cafeteria tables. Mary Taylor wrote and won our 2nd grant from the US Department of Education and with Jim Mullaney’s expert guiding of our finance committee, we finally became solvent. Our start-up team had done its job.
In selecting our curriculum for the school, we researched which countries’ students performed the best in math and science. Singapore students, using the Primary Mathematics curriculum (called Singapore Math in the US) placed 1st in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2011, and 2nd in 2007 out of approximately 60 participating countries, in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). (This test is only administered every 4 years.)
The Singapore Math curriculum builds deep understanding of mathematical concepts through multi-step problems and concrete illustrations that demonstrate how abstract mathematical concepts are used to solve problems from different perspectives. We use Singapore Math because students who use it outperform every other country in math and science; because of its emphasis on math concepts, and because of its in depth focus on mastering math skills (instead of a mile wide, inch deep).
We also believe a quality program needs to include learning a second language as well. Studying a second language increases the student’s cognitive flexibility, the ability to mentally shuffle material, significantly improving problem solving abilities, and also leads to greater understanding of the world we live in. Students also have daily English class and with the double emphasis on language arts, our students score in the top 10% in the state every year. We want our students to develop an awareness and respect for different cultures, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Teaching young learners about different cultures fosters tolerance and diversity, giving them a wider perspective on the world, appreciation, and respect for the differences in everyone. We have a community that models and encourages character development, respect for diversity, and a sense of responsibility toward the community.
And lastly, you should know that we run on a very tight budget. We only receive per pupil funding from the state, and the district keeps 20% of that to ‘manage’ our charter. The per pupil funding covers teacher salaries and classroom materials so we have an annual fundraising event to help close the gap for items such as building expenses, nurse and counselor care, transportation, cleaning and maintenance, curriculum and classroom equipment, and the free/reduced lunch program among other things. We don't receive any funds from bonds the district passes so we effectively operate at 50% of what the regular public schools do. All families are asked to volunteer 20 hours/year to help in the classroom, café, or at events. The kids love to see their parents helping out at the school and the teachers appreciate it too.
We are a close-knit school with about 250 students. Our students follow a dress-code of navy blue or khaki pants, and a solid red, white, or blue shirt to promote unity and cohesiveness. We are proud of our school and can only do it with the support of all of our parents. It does take a village! If you’d like to become part of our village, contact us now to learn how.